New York Local Government Employment: 1990 to 2017

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released annual average Current Employment Survey data for 2017 this week, and rebenchmarked prior data to the latest unemployment insurance tax records, something it does every March.   The news was good for metro New York. Its total employment for December 2017 was 57,600 higher than had been reported prior to the adjustment, and its increase from the prior December was 22,900 greater.   For New York City alone, the December 2017 estimate of total employment was 25,400 higher, and the change over the year was 3,500 greater. The greatest source of error in this data is an unexpected number of jobs in new businesses, since these cannot be surveyed and must be estimated.

With the 2017 data out, I’ve repeated my charts of local government employment for New York City and the rest of New York State. The charts show that prior trends are continuing, with less local government employment relative to private sector employment. Mostly because more and more tax dollars are going to debts and retirement benefits for those no longer working, rather than workers still on the job and producing public services. For that reason New York City faces fiscal issues, and New York State and the MTA face budget deficits, even though New York City has added an incredible 500,000-plus private sector jobs over five years.

The spreadsheet used to create the charts in this post is here.

NY Local Government BLS 1990-17

The data was downloaded from here.

https://www.bls.gov/

One could use the “Series Report” tool with the series in the spreadsheet to replicate the data. It starts with 1990 because of an industry classification change.

Chart1

The data shows that after falling during the Giuliani Administration, when New York City was on the brink of bankruptcy for the second time, and then recovering somewhat with regard to elementary and secondary school employment, New York City local government employment has been essentially flat for decades.   It totaled 458,000 in 1992, 453,300 in 1999, and 458,900 in 2017.

New York City’s elementary and secondary school employment was slashed to 137,400 in 1997, as the children of the Baby Boomers were flooding the schools, before rising to 151,100 in 2004. Both enrollment and employment trended down until 2012, after which employment has been rising. The 2017 employment level was 148,400.

New York City’s other local government employment was generally flat to falling from 1990 until 2007, when former Mayor Bloomberg considered running for President and then decided to over-ride term limits and run for a third term.   It then increased. After falling a few years it increased to 309,900 in 2017, about the same as the 305,000 in 1995. This data includes New York City Transit.

Local government employment soared in the rest of New York State from 1994 until 2009, as former Governor Pataki slashed state funding for New York City services and jacked it up for the rest of the state. Total local government employment soared from 558,000 in 1994 to 673,000 in 2009, before falling back to 619,300 in 2017. The biggest increase was in elementary and secondary schools, from 299,200 in 1994 to 366,700 in 2009. Many of those extra local government workers in the rest of New York State are now retirees receiving pensions and retiree health insurance.

Chart2a

There seem to have been two eras with regard to local government employment – 1990 to 2009 and 2009 to 2017.

It isn’t just local government employment that soared in the Rest of New York. Employment in the private health care and social assistance sector, which is substantially government funded (Medicare, Medicaid, etc.), also exploded with an increase of 231,600 workers from 1990 to 2009. The rest of the private sector in the Rest of New York State fell by 122,700 jobs during those years.   Local government employment increased by 77,500 in the schools, and 49,900 otherwise.

In New York City health care and social assistance employment also soared from 1990 to 2009, by 192,300.   The rest of the private sector lost jobs in NYC as well, but just 15,200 of them. Meanwhile an increase of 11,000 in elementary and secondary school employment was offset by a decrease of 21,500 in other local government employment.

From 2009 to 2017, on the other hand, New York City’s private sector has had an incredible boom, with 583,200 jobs added outside the health care and social assistance sector. Health care and social assistance also continued to add jobs, with a gain of 146,800. But elementary and secondary school employment was 1,100 lower in 2017 than it had been in 2009, and other local government employment was down by 2,300.

The local government boom in the Rest of New York State was partially reversed from 2009 to 2017, with 24,700 fewer elementary and secondary school jobs and 29,700 fewer jobs elsewhere in local government.   The health and social services sector was up another 220,800 jobs, however, and the rest of the private sector was up 100,300. That’s a better trend, but total local government employment remained 73,000 higher in 2017 than it had been in 1990. Despite population and economic stagnation. In New York City, in contrast, local government employment was 13,900 lower in 2017 than it had been in 1990.

Chart2b

Many of the trends observed for the Rest of New York State were also true of the U.S. as a whole. There was a large increase in local government employment from 1990 to 2009, both for elementary and secondary schools and for other local government, followed by a smaller decrease from 2009 to 2017. Employment in the private health care and social services sector soared in both periods.   And while the U.S. as a whole had a stronger private economy outside health and social services from 1990 to 2009, the private sector still expanded less than the public sector during those years.

Chart3

Aside from New York City, the only major New York State labor market area with fewer local government jobs in 2017 than it had in 1990 is metro Syracuse, with just 500 fewer. The biggest increases in local government employment were on Long Island, with an increase of 21,200 from 1990 to 2017, and the Lower Hudson Valley, with an increase of 13,700. Even in these areas, however, local government employment was lower in 2017 than it had been in 2009, by 10,000 (6.1%) on Long Island and 8,800 (9.3%) in the Lower Hudson Valley.

Chart2c

From 2016 to 2017 alone, however, local government elementary and secondary school employment increased by 1,200 (0.8%) in New York City and 2,600 (0.8%) in the Rest of New York State. The state’s schools and teachers’ unions continue to demand more money despite having far more funding already than they did earlier, even though enrollment is lower. The result is not only higher taxes but also less money available for other things. Other local government employment decreased by 1,400 (0.4%) in New York City and 100 in the Rest of New York State from 2016 to 2017.

Meanwhile, private health care and social assistance employment soared by 33,100 (4.9%) in New York City, a massive gain for one year, and 19,700(2.5%) in the Rest of New York State, still a significant increase for an area with a stagnant population.

Chart4

Employment in New York City’s private home health care industry continues to explode, with an increase of 19,600 jobs (14.6%) in just one year. Employment in this industry has more than doubled in NYC just since 2010, and the pace of increase appears to be accelerating.   While an aging population may be generating the demand for more home health care services, the population of the Rest of New York State is aging even more rapidly. Yet its home health care employment growth is far less.

This kind of increase ought to arouse concern that there is a public money pillage going on by New York City’s non-profiteers, given that a large share of home health care is financed by public programs. Somebody ought to be examining and explaining or exposing the cause.

Chart5

Meanwhile, even excluding the health care and social sector from private employment, the ratio of other private sector employment to local government employment increased from 2009, the bottom of the recession, to 2017. In New York City, the Rest of New York State, and the U.S. In 2017 New York City had 6.9 other private sector jobs for each local government job, up from 5.6 in 2009 and 5.5 in 1990. The U.S. had 7.3 other private sector jobs, up from 6.3 and in 2009 but down from 7.5 in 1990.

The Rest of New York State, however, still had just 5.5 other private sector jobs for each local government job, up from just 4.7 in 2009 but down from 6.0 in 1990.   To carry those local government jobs, and the retirees from the even greater number of local government workers during the Pataki local government bubble, the State of New York continues to shift more and more money away from New York City.